Latest Speculation on Former Padres LF Justin Upton


Jason Heyward was seen by many as the top free agent outfielder because of his youth, defensive prowess, and all around ability to impact a team. For the three remaining free agent outfielders however of Justin Upton, Alex Gordon, and Yoenis Cespedes, the question gets a little trickier.

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First you have Alex Gordon – fresh off leading his original team to a World Series Championship. As pointed out by Sports Illustrated’s Cliff Corcoran, Gordon is the most decorated of the bunch, having won 1 World Series, 2 Pennants, 3 Time All-Star selection, and 4 time Gold Glove Award winner. He will be 32 when next season begins which is likely to limit the contract length teams are willing to offer him, particularly after he had a down 2015. His defense and speed declined, though he still hit right around his career average of .269 and actually posted the highest OBP of his career. The sentimental pick here is for him to stay with Kansas City, but they may not be able to afford him.

Then there is the case of Yoenis Cespedes. I haven’t seen a team transform in a mid-season trade the Mets did when they acquired him from Detroit this year since

Carlos Beltran

went to the Astros back in 2004 and proceeded to hit 23 HR in just 90 games. Cespedes is an interesting case because since coming on with Oakland in 2012 he has showed no signs of being troubled by MLB pitching. The guy has spent 6 games in the minor leagues. His arm is the best of the three though like fellow country-mate

Yasiel Puig

can sometimes be a little sloppy in using it. Who can forget this throw:

2015 was his highest home run total yet with 35 between the two leagues, and his 159 games played was also the highest of his career. So he appears square in the prime of his career. His price tag will also reflect that.

Which brings us to the final of the three outfielders in Justin Upton. When the Padres acquired him, they knew they would only have him for one year but many hoped that when the Padres added his brother Melvin Upton might sway the younger Upton to stay with the Padres. I don’t see Justin going sentimental and turning down the monster payday he is headed for. Upton just turned 28 and since he debuted at 19 already has 9 MLB seasons under his belt. Over his career he has average 26 home runs and 84 RBI, almost exactly what he produced for the Padres last year.

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He rejected the Padres qualifying offer and both Cespedes and Upton are expected to sign contracts in the 3-5 year, $150M range. Corcoran comes to this conclusion and I tend to agree:

"In the end, Upton is likely to be the better investment over the long term, making him a wiser investment for a team looking to contend regularly over the next five years. But Cespedes could have the larger impact in the short term for a team looking for an impact player to help bring them a title in 2016."

I only differ in one sense: in Alex Gordon and Yoenis Cespedes you have two players who have proven they can be franchise cornerstones. They lead by example, hustle, and elevate those around them. After watching Justin Upton for two years in Atlanta (the Braves are my admitted second team) and one year on the Padres, Justin Upton is not that guy. A good complement, a consistent force in the middle of your lineup, but not a player to build your franchise around. Just ask the Arizona Diamondbacks about that.